There are many grocery shopping basics that will help you save money- in fact I have a list of twenty-one ways to save at the grocery store. In this blog post, here is a list of basics I know to be true when it comes to grocery shopping!

Grocery Shopping Basics

Make Shopping Lists

Shopping lists is the most essential grocery shopping basic rule that I can think of! And meal planning is even more important. Making a shopping list keeps you from wandering the stores and adding more to your cart than you should. Be meticulous in your grocery shopping decision making process- and yes, it is a real process to control this expense. Read my article Making a Meal Plan Rotation so that you can learn the step-by-step process of a detailed meal plan process and how to use a rotation to keep things from getting boring!

Meat is the Most Expensive Grocery Item

…with dairy being a close second. We get meat and some dairy products at Costco. Our meat purchases usually lasts 3-4 months.

This is My Costco Meat Grocery List

  • Whole pork loin (cut and back it later)
  • Pork steaks/chops,
  • Chicken breasts and drumsticks
  • Whole chicken
  • Ground turkey
  • Ground beef
  • Bacon

Buy in Bulk

This is not a a hard fast basic rule for grocery shopping! But there are some items that are better bought at warehouse stores if you have the storage and can afford it. We buy meat, butter, bread, snacks, coffee pods and creamer, some produce, peanut butter, etc at Costco. We put the meat, bread and butter in the freezer until we need them. If we don’t go through certain items in time before they expire, then we just buy them at the local grocery store!

Grocery Shopping Basics that Save Money

It Costs Less to Eat Healthier

Junk food and fast food cost more than the healthier items. When I think about how much more expensive fast food is than going to be at the grocery store and cooking myself, I think that it is because it’s more like a “convenience fee”. You’re paying for the convenience of having someone else do it for you or for it being pre-packaged.  

It Costs Less to Do it Yourself

Baking bread, making your own lasagna, homemade french fries, homemade broths… that all cost less (as I just said)! You’re paying a convenience fee for someone else having made it, packaged it, shipped it and a third-party selling it.

Fresh French Bread
This simple bread recipe has become a staple in our kitchen.
Check out this recipe
My Chicken Broth Recipe

It Costs Less to Cut it Yourself

I learned when I was a grocery store clerk (eons ago!) that the pre-cut produce costs more than the whole item. “It costs more because we cut it before the customer buys it,” my co-worker told me.

Another example is that the whole chickens cost less than the chicken breasts. I can get 2 chickens for roughly $10-11 (approximately 5 lb chickens?) and that costs half than the package of chicken breasts and the chicken breasts are approximately $5 cheaper than the tenderloins because they are already sliced. You are paying for convenience. Sometimes that is great – freezer chicken nuggets, frozen produce, Kyler likes his corn dogs and french fries and sometimes I don’t want to make my own sweet potato fries….So we pay for that convenience. 🤷🏼‍♀️

Packaging Costs More

The example that comes to mind right now is that you can buy from 2 different options of pork loin at Costco: 1 is just 1 big “log” of pork loin and the other is 2 smaller “logs” separated by a lot of packaging. The two products are similar in weight but cost differently. You’re essentially paying for plastic wrapping. You could also see what your local butcher shop prices are like. In Montana, we have a business that sells ENTIRE cows! But Kyler and I are a ways off from affording 1/4 of a cow for $1500+

Generic Brand is Best

But not always. As a general rule of thumb, it is better to buy the store brand. Sometimes it is even tastier than the name brand, and other times there are sales for items such as eggs on the name brand or organic brand, etc. Just pay close attention.

Create a Pantry “Stockpile”

I’ve been accused of being a hoarder when it comes to pantry items but the truth is that I simply forget if I have bought something or if I need it and forgot to put it on the list, so I just buy it again when I go to the store. (Which I suppose isn’t always the best practice). I buy things like taco seasoning packets, canned kidney beans (or a small bag of the dried beans), or another can of tomatoes, or paste…or spaghetti noodles. For a long time, I kept forgetting about how much spaghetti pasta we had and next thing you know, we had like 8 boxes. But in my defense, the canned veggies are barely $0.50 each. Other pantry items include other types of seasoning packets, some snacks, bread crumbs, etc.

Basically if you have a collection of the right pantry items and meat, you only need to replenish your dairy and produce and some grains like bread and pasta. And I will update you on that statement after this “budget experiment” is over.

Final Thoughts on Grocery Shopping Basics to Save Money

So as you can see, there are several basic rules to save money on grocery shopping. Another key detail is finding delicious recipes that help you anchor down the cost of a dinner and keep it affordable, healthy and delicious. A majority of my dinners are $5 or less! Consider signing up for a $5 Dinner Freebie- 25 $5 dinners and 10+ side dishes that are totally affordable!

$5 Dinner Freebie
Signup and get a list of 25 $5 dinners and 12 side dishes that are perfect for making a cheap dinner full and $5.